Growth After the Storm
While Naples Lumber has grown its physical location to include 11 buildings including a full-line lumberyard, showroom, stores and offices on 10 acres of land, it has remained a one-store business over the course of its 45 years. The business has carved out a well-defined identity over those years and has grown to control the market. Big box store aren’t much competition in the area, and with no other independents in Collier County, Naples Lumber pretty much stands alone in its market, aside from a few door, window, or specialty shops that compete with Naples’ custom door shop and truss manufacturing.
“The custom and semi-custom residential building customer requires a high level of service and flexibility that most of our competitors are simply not structured to service properly,” Labbe said. He credits the company’s discipline to not chase large production builder opportunities that drive up sales volume but negatively impact the ability to be creative and provide superior customer service.
Since 75% of Naples Lumber & Supply’s business goes to residential contractors, it’s clear that high-end homes are still in demand in the Naples area. The majority of contractor customers are building custom and semi-custom residential homes, Labbe said. With more than $40 million in revenue projected this year, which is more than double just four years ago, Labbe anticipates a 5% to 7% controlled growth going into 2017.
The primary challenge facing Naples Lumber & Supply right now is the ability to ramp up the number of skilled associates to meet customer expectations, Labbe said. There are service levels and quality levels that have become key to Naples Lumber & Supply’s success.
“Those are the things that everyone in our industry is facing,” Weston added. “During the recession, we weren’t filling pipelines and training people. That’s what we’re trying to do now.” Labbe employs just over 80 staff members, including a 13-member outside sales force. He currently has more outside salespeople in training.
Labbe attributes much of his company’s success to the level of service Naples Lumber & Supply is able to offer as an independent dealer. In an industry that is undergoing a significant amount of consolidation, Labbe sees opportunity as an independent dealer with a very specific focus on the market and ability to “move quickly and be more nimble in responding to customer needs and localized situations.” Labbe said his customers are never considered numbers in a huge portfolio of business. Each has its own want and need and therefore receives specialized service.
“We can’t be all things to everyone, but our market is our home so we believe we are especially well-equipped to educate our customers about what we can do to help them be more successful,” Weston said.
Their philosophy is simple, Labbe added, “We consider Naples to be Midwest values, with Southern hospitality.” And that philosophy will continue at Naples Lumber & Supply. While the recession was certainly unwelcome, it did provide a lesson or two, Weston said.
“It was a kick-in-the-pants reminder about the value of minding the fundamentals of quality, customer service and cash flow,” he said. “The recession brought us a re-commitment to not let prosperous times distract you from the need to practice back-against-the-wall management every day.”